Everybody has their favourite Christmas film. You know the ones: the moment the opening titles appear you’re there – the Christmas feeling and the snow and the feel-good factor guaranteed. I love the big-hitters – The Muppet Christmas Carol, White Christmas, Elf…
But there is another kind of Christmas movie that’s become my slight obsession (sorry, Bob). I’m talking the made-for-TV, preposterously festive variety. And this year, I’m making it my mission to watch one every day until Christmas.
So here is WURDYWATCH – my odyssey into the always snowy, small-town-cutesy, irrepressibly romantic world of TV Christmas movies!
WURDYWATCH starts here, folks!
Before we begin, let me say that my love for these films burns bright. I’m not out to criticise them or mock anyone who, like me, finds them irresistible. I love these movies for their unashamedly festive approach, their innocence, and their inherent belief that everyone is capable of goodness deep down, and that Christmas can bring magic into our lives. Yes, the acting may be hilarious at times, the scripts may contain gems that will have you chuckling long after the end credits roll and the plots might be as flimsy as Christmas wrapping paper, but there’s always magic, positivity and moments of uplifting loveliness. Personally, I think we need more of that in our lives.
So, my first WURDYWATCH treat is Angel of Christmas (Hallmark Movies 2015)
CAST: Susan – Jennifer Finnigan, Brady – Jonathan Scarfe
Director: Ron Oliver
Writer: Gary Goldstein
Setting: New York
Where to begin? Well, it’s the story of Susan, a newspaper copy-editor who longs to be a proper writer. She hates Christmas (we find out why later) but is challenged by her editor to find her a ‘magical, authentic, personal, emotional holiday story’ that will be the lead article on the Christmas Day edition of the newspaper. She’s given 3,000 words (probably half the newspaper, but hey, details schmetails) and a laptop that only types in 14 point (really big letters) and sent off to fulfil her dream.
On the way she meets hunky painter Brady (who we never see painting but always has an adorable blob of paint on his brow, even at a gallery launch). He’s a free spirit, happy to live in the present – the polar opposite to Susan, who is career-led, driven and ambitious. They strike up a friendship after a couple of chance meetings and when Susan tells him about the story she has to write, he volunteers to be her ‘Christmas coach’, schooling her in all things emotional, sparkly and festive…
You see? You’re hooked already, aren’t you? Well, hold onto your picture-perfect bobble hats, lovelies, it gets better…
Susan tells her Christmas-loving (and wise) parents about her mission and they give her quite possibly the scariest looking wooden Christmas angel you’ve ever seen. Honestly, this thing would give you nightmares. Behold:
ARGH! That aside, there is a lovely, true – and mysterious – family story attached to the angel. (A story! Just what Susan needs!) In the 1920s, Susan’s great-grandfather moved to New York from a small town and fell in love with an actress. He promised her he would return in a year to prove his love and planned to propose to her. A talented woodworker, he made a Christmas angel in the image of his true love – the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen (aww!). But when he proposed to her, she turned him down, sending him back to the small town where he then met Susan’s great-grandmother when he tried to donate the angel to the local church. The story is that the angel is then responsible for every couple in her family meeting and falling in love.
Hence two unshakeable laws about TV Christmas movies:
1. FAMILY MATTERS – reconnecting with family, gaining wisdom from them and following long-held traditions are all important messages. There is nearly always a wise family member – Wise Mom, Wise Dad, Wise Grandpa-who-looks-suspiciously-like-Santa – who utters a key line from the movie. So here, Wise Mom and Wise Dad give the angel to Susan and say: ‘This little angel brings people together.”
2. WOOD WINS – in most TV Christmas movies, something made of wood proves to be key to solving a mystery/resolving a dispute/bringing people together. In this case, the whopping great, slightly scary Christmas angel that Susan carries with her everywhere (it must weigh a ton!), but also a wooden log cabin and an old wooden writing desk (no spoilers, you’ll have to watch it to find out why these are vital to the story!)
So Susan sets out to discover who the actress was that inspired her family’s heirloom…
Of course, Brady gets involved (adorable paint-splats and all) and the scene is set for a burgeoning romance. But – but! – there’s also a possible challenger for Susan’s affections! The dastardly Derek (played by the exquisitely named Tahmoh Penikett) is a hot-shot reporter at the newspaper and is everything Susan believes she is (and everything free-spirited, adorably paint-splattered Brady isn’t…) He hates Christmas! He has goals! He wears a suit! As Susan ponders the Christmas angel’s power to find her true love, could Dastardly Derek be The One after all?
I won’t spoil it for you by telling you if Painting-Not-Painting Brady or Boo-some Cad Derek wins Susan’s affections, but what I will say is that this film ticks so many boxes in the perfect Christmas movie list. Cute skating scene where they almost kiss? Tick! Christmas tree shopping? Tick! New York in the snow, carol-singing, the Rockerfeller ice rink and Christmas tree? Tick, tick, tick! Susan and Brady also discover their families share a strange Christmas tradition – the Christmas tree is always outside (“..so it can look up to see God…”) Is this a sign? I’ll let you find out!
There are surprise gifts, a twist I honestly didn’t see coming and Susan’s emotional journey which at moments is genuinely touching. And there’s snow, happy families, love and, of course, a little bit of Christmas magic on a Christmas Eve finale.
For the first movie of WURDYWATCH, this one’s a belter!
More coming soon – and if you liked this one, please leave a comment below or tweet me @wurdsmyth on Twitter. Happy Holidays! xx